Book Review: Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts

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by Ralph Martin Novak

Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press, 2001. Pp. x, 340. Append., notes, biblio., indices. $28.00 paper. ISBN:1-56338-347-0

StrategyPage doesn’t normally review works that fall outside of the realms of military, defense, security, and related disciplines. However, the Editors do reserve the right to do so if a work “outside” our primary areas of interest impinges interestingly upon it. This is certainly the case with Christianity and the Roman Empire.

In Classical Antiquity there was a far more intimate relationship between what we today term “politics” and “religion,” so on one level Christianity and the Roman Empire provides a view of the cultural and social framework within which unfolded many of the critical political and military developments of the time. These developments were crucial not only to the existence, and ultimate “fall” of the Roman Empire, at least in the West, but also provided the foundations on which Western Civilization – still the best deal humanity has ever had – was to arise. The book has a marvelous cast, even leaving aside the religious figures – Herod the Great, Marcus Aurelius, Decius, Diocletian, Constantine, Julian the Apostate, Valens, and more, as they beat off barbarian invasions, fight civil wars, and engage in bloody intrigues for power. Novak’s profusely documented work helps place their military and diplomatic attainments within the broader political and cultural framework of the Roman world. In addition, the book includes a valuable aside on the cult of the Roman emperors, one of the underpinnings of the Imperial Army, plus a number of careful inquiries into chronological issues.

Altogether a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the history of the Roman Empire.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, CNO SSG   


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